"Ay," echoed Captain Good, "what do you think of them, Mr. Quatermain? I hope you are going to give us the pleasure of your company as far as Solomon's Mines, or wherever the gentleman you knew as Neville may have got to."

I rose and knocked out my pipe before I answered. I had not made up my mind, and wanted the additional moment to complete it. Before the burning tobacco had fallen into the sea it was completed; just that little extra second did the trick. It is often the way when you have been bothering a long time over a thing.

"Yes, gentlemen," I said, sitting down again, "I will go, and by your leave I will tell you why and on what terms. First, for the terms which I ask.

"1. You are to pay all expenses, and any ivory or other valuables we may get is to be divided between Captain Good and myself.

"2. That you pay me #500 for my service on the trip before we start, I undertaking to serve you faithfully till you choose to abandon the enterprise, or tell we succeed, or disaster overtakes us.

"3. That before we start you execute a deed agreeing in the event of my death or disablement, to pay my boy Harry, who is studying medicine over there in London at Guy's Hospital, a sum of #200 a year for five years, by which time he ought to be able to earn a living for himself. That is all, I think, and I dare say you will say quite enough, too."

"No," answered Sir Henry, "I accept them gladly. I am bent upon this project, and would pay more than that for your help, especially considering the peculiar knowledge you possess."

"Very well. And now that I have made my terms I will tell you my reasons for making up my mind to go. First of all, gentlemen, I have been observing you both for the last few days, and if you will not think me impertinent I will say that I like you, and think that we shall come up well to the yoke together. That is something, let me tell you, when one has a long journey like this before one.

"And now as to the journey itself, I tell you flatly, Sir Henry and Captain Good, that I do not think it probable that we can come out of it alive, that is, if we attempt to cross the Suliman Mountains. What was the fate of the old Don da Silvestra three hundred years ago? What was the fate of his descendant twenty years ago? What has been your brother's fate? I tell you frankly, gentlemen, that as their fate was so I believe ours will be."

I paused to watch the effect of my words. Captain Good looked a little uncomfortable; but Sir Henry's face did not change.

"We must take our chance," he said.

"You may perhaps wonder," I went on, "why, if I think this, I, who am, as I told you, a timid man, should undertake such a journey. It is for two reasons. First, I am a fatalist, and believe that my time is appointed to come quite independently of my own movements, and that if I am to go to Suliman Mountains to be killed, I shall go there and shall be killed there. God Almighty, no doubt, knows his mind about me, so I need not trouble on that account. Secondly, I am a poor man. For forty years I have hunted and but I have never made more than a living. Well, gentlemen, I don't know if you are aware that the average life of an elephant-hunter from the time he takes to the trade is from four to five years. So you see I have lived through about seven generations of my class and I should think that my time cannot be far off, any way. Now, if anything were to happen to me in the course of business, by the time my debts were paid there would be nothing left to support my son Harry while he was getting in the way of earning a living, whereas now he would be provided for for five years. There is whole affair in a nutshell."

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